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Violet-backed Starling

Violet-backed StarlingOrder:  Passeriformes- perching or song birds        

Family:  Sturnidae- starlings, mynas, and oxpeckers

Scientific Name:  Cinnyricinclus leucogaster


Description Length approximately 6.5 inches.  Weight averages 1.5 ounces.  The male’s head and throat are an iridescent metallic purple that continues through the back and tail regions.  Wings diverge into a deeper purplish blue.  Breast and belly are white and occasionally lightly streaked.  Female has same pattern, but is less conspicuous than male with a drab brown head and back with a white belly that is heavily streaked.  Juveniles closely resemble females.  Eyes are yellow.

RangeHome Range:Widespread over most areas of Africa south of Senegal in the west and Sudan in the east. 


Habitat Type:   Forested and wooded areas where there is ample fruit to forage as well as fields and gardens.  Has also been known to thrive in dry bush areas where fig trees are present.


Reproduction:  These birds are monogamous (one male and one female mate with each other for the breeding season).  Laying dates vary widely due to wide geographic location, but occur from Oct to Mar.  The nest is located in tree holes that are 6-20 feet above the ground.  Green leaves constitute most of the nest.  Female lays 2-4 pale blue oval eggs with reddish-brown spots.  Female incubates for 2 weeks.  Both sexes will tend to the new brood for 3 weeks, feeding them mainly insects.  Fledging takes place soon after.


Diet in the Wild:  Mainly a frugivore.  Especially fond of figs.  Also catches and consumes insects when airborne if the opportunity arises. 


Diet in the Zoo:  Tropical bits, fruits, and vegetables.


General Information:  Within their home range, this species can either be a resident or migrant.  A particular bird may stay in one location indefinitely if the conditions are favorable.  If conditions become unfavorable, the bird will migrate.  Migration accounts for much of this species distribution. 

They are rarely seen on the ground, preferring to make a living in the tree tops.  When they are found in gardens they are not a significant pest and are not widely exterminated.  The Violet-backed starling is a very social bird.  They have even been known to travel in mixed species flocks.  Generally though, they flock and roost with one another in smaller flocks compared to other starlings.

The song of this bird is an introductory twittering, followed by a nasal whistle “tippee-tippee-teeeuu”.  There is evidence that the Violet-backed starling is parasitized by Greater and Lesser honeyguides.  Although more frequent instances of this practice are unproven, research suggests that this parasitism takes place on a regular basis.  Behavior of the parents after recognizing a foreign egg is unknown and is in need of further study.


Conservation Status:  This species is not threatened or endangered because of national parks and their wide geographic range.  These facts prevent drastic declines in population numbers.  Their adaptability is also accredited for their success.


Predators:  No specific information found.  Birds of prey and snakes are likely predators.



Encyclopedia of Aviculture Vol.3.  1977.  A. Rutgers and K.A. Norris, Blandford Press, Linkhouse, Poole.  pg. 209-210.


A Field Guide to Birds of East Africa.  1980.  J.G. Williams and N. Arlott, Collins Ltd., Grafton Street, London.  pg. 250, 390.